Medics may face jail for neglect

The wilful neglect of patients is to be made a criminal offence under NHS reforms being introduced in the wake of the Mid Staffordshire and other care scandals. David Cameron said health workers would face "the full force of the law".

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Proposal alone 'will not help change to culture of care'

The British Medical Association (BMA) said a proposal to make the wilful neglect of patients a criminal offence alone "will not help change to a culture of care within the NHS".

Dr Paul Flynn, chair of the BMA's consultant committee, said:

Whilst we must ensure that what happened at Mid-Staffordshire Hospital is never allowed to occur again, this proposal alone will not help change to a culture of care within the NHS.

All of Professor Berwick's recommendations must be considered and the NHS must change from the top by increasing staffing levels and resources.

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New law would not punish 'honest mistakes'

A patient safety charity backing proposals to make the wilful neglect of medical patients a criminal offence said the Government must also implement a statutory Duty of Candour requiring honesty with patients when things go wrong.

Action Against Medical Accidents also suggested a "package of measures" should include protection for whistleblowers.

It cannot be right that any one of us can be criminally prosecuted for reckless driving or cruelty to animals, but no one is properly held to account for neglect and cruelty to our most vulnerable patients.

This new law would only punish those who have wilfully caused suffering and harm due to neglect - not those who have made genuine, honest mistakes.

– Peter Walsh, chief executive of Action Against Medical Accidents

GP body: Law can't regulate how people do their jobs

The law cannot be relied upon to make people do their jobs properly, the chair of the Royal College of GPs told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme. Dr Maureen Baker said the key to patient safety is ensuring that effective systems are in place.

Doctors, nurses - we are human, human beings make mistakes. You can't change the human condition, but you can help support the humans in having systems around them that help keep them safe, caring and compassionate.

You can't rely on the law to properly regulate how people do their jobs. We need to rely on the professionalism of doctors, nurses, managers.

What we need to do is let the professionalism take more centrality so that people can flag up the way they need to work in a safe system to care for patients properly.

– Dr Maureen Baker, Royal College of GPs

Government 'needs to consider staffing levels'

The general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing told BBC Radio 5 Live that there are already measures to address individual instances of neglect in the profession, and said that the Government should concentrate on improving staffing levels.

The Government are quick to look at legally enforceable issues to do with this, I hope they're going to be as keen to ensure that there are legally enforceable staffing levels, which we've been calling for in the way that they have in Australia and some American states.

...We will not be a refuge for nurses or anyone else who is wilfully neglectful, but there are existing remedies that you can use which will address examples or instances when individuals are wilfully neglectful.

– Dr Peter Carter, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing

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Patient report targeted 'couldn't care less' culture

The review into patient safety and care in hospitals was led by Professor Don Berwick, a former adviser to US President Barack Obama, and he said it was needed to target the worst cases of a "couldn't care less" attitude that led to "wilful or reckless neglect or mistreatment".

The Government indicated when he published his report in August that it was likely to make the change to a criminal offence.

The NHS is full of brilliant doctors, nurses and other health workers who dedicate their lives to caring for our loved ones.

But Mid-Staffordshire hospital showed that sometimes the standard of care is not good enough. That is why we have taken a number of different steps that will improve patient care and improve how we spot bad practice.

Never again will we allow substandard care, cruelty or neglect to go unnoticed and unpunished. This is not about a hospital worker who makes a mistake, but specific cases where a patient has been neglected or ill-treated.

This offence will make clear that neglect is unacceptable and those who do so will feel the full force of the law.

– Prime Minister David Cameron

New measures to make patient neglect a crime

Under new measures to be unveiled next week, patient neglect is to be made a crime. Credit: PA

The wilful neglect of patients is to be made a criminal offence under NHS reforms being introduced in the wake of the Mid Staffs and other care scandals.

David Cameron said health workers who mistreated and abused patients would face "the full force of the law" in a package of measures to be unveiled next week.

The offence will be modelled on laws against the wilful neglect of adults under the Mental Capacity Act, punishable by fines or up to five years in prison.

A consultation on what scale of sentence should be applied to the extended law will be carried out over the next few months by the Department of Health.

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